I always welcome the opportunity to honor my amazing students so I was pleased that my nomination for "Trailblazer of the week" was selected. As I said in my nomination, Kaya B. represents the best of AACT students because of her work ethic, her leadership, and most importantly, her kindness. I was thrilled when the Principal asked her to do a thank you video to me and shared it with the school. The most noteworthy thing wasn't that she finds my classroom engaging and fun, though I take great pride in the curricula I design. No, the beautiful thing in her video response was her saying that my class helps her "look into who I am myself." I'm a firm believer in trying to provide a good and safe space for students to figure out who they are, and giving them time to reflect and act on their beliefs and values. Congratulations to Kaya!
At the end of the fall semester I had the time to really dive into ChatGPT and test out its capabilities. My first inclination was to play....being an English teacher I couldn't help but see how well it could create a Shakespearean sonnet. The results were formally correct but ultimately uninspired.
I couldn't help but try to challenge it by asking it to write me an essay on why Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films of all time. What it spit back at me after 10 seconds was a good overview of why the Orson Welles classic merited so much praise. Granted, it wasn't scintillating prose, but it was damn good. And the obvious question was, if a student had turned it in would I have been impressed or suspicious.
Write me a 400 word essay explaining why Citizen Kane is the greatest film of all time?
Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles and released in 1941, is widely regarded as the greatest film of all time. There are several reasons for this.
First and foremost, Citizen Kane broke new ground in terms of its innovative use of film techniques. The film was revolutionary in its use of deep focus cinematography, which allowed for multiple planes of action to be in focus at the same time. This allowed for a greater sense of realism and allowed for more complex visual storytelling. Additionally, the film made extensive use of lighting and shadow to create a moody, atmospheric visual style that was unlike anything that had come before.
Another reason why Citizen Kane is considered the greatest film of all time is its complex and nuanced portrayal of its central character, Charles Foster Kane. Kane is a deeply flawed and complicated individual, and the film does an excellent job of exploring the various facets of his personality. Through the use of flashbacks, the film delves into Kane's past and shows how his experiences and relationships have shaped him into the person he is at the time of his death. This is a departure from the more one-dimensional characterizations that were common in films at the time, and it adds a level of depth and complexity to the film that is rare even by today's standards.
Citizen Kane is also notable for its ambitious narrative structure. The film is told through a series of flashbacks, with different characters offering their perspectives on Kane's life. This allows for a more complete understanding of Kane as a person and adds to the overall complexity of the film. Additionally, the film's use of non-linear storytelling adds to its sense of mystery and keeps the audience engaged throughout.
Finally, Citizen Kane is a film that has stood the test of time. It was released over 80 years ago, yet it is still regarded as a masterpiece of cinema. This is a testament to the film's enduring themes and universal appeal. At its core, Citizen Kane is a film about the human condition and the search for meaning in life. These are themes that are timeless and that continue to resonate with audiences today.
In conclusion, Citizen Kane is the greatest film of all time due to its innovative use of film techniques, its complex and nuanced portrayal of its central character, its ambitious narrative structure, and its enduring themes and universal appeal. It is a film that has truly stood the test of time and will continue to be revered for years to come.
Not bad for a robot, right? Taking anther look at the essay I realized I would have graded it as a low A to a high B. The lightbulb went off...how would ChatGPT grade the essay? So I asked it...
What grade would you give this essay on the film Citizen Kane?
I would give this essay a grade of A-. The essay effectively explains why Citizen Kane is widely regarded as the greatest film of all time and provides several reasons to support this claim. The essay also provides specific examples of the film's innovative techniques and its complex portrayal of its central character. Additionally, the essay touches on the film's narrative structure and its enduring themes. The only area where the essay could be improved is in the conclusion, which simply restates the main points of the essay rather than offering any new insights or analysis. Overall, however, this is a well-written and well-organized essay that effectively demonstrates an understanding of Citizen Kane and its place in film history.
I tried this experiment with several other topics and even gave it multiple opportunities for ChatGPT to grade its own essays. Not unsurprisingly, on a couple of essays it wavered on it's grading going from a C- to a C+ on one particular essay that one of my real students had written. How very human of it to be ever so slightly inconsistent in its assessments of writing!
So what is to be made of this? What conclusions can we draw? AI is here to stay and expand obviously and unsurprisingly, Washoe County School District "blocked" access to ChatGPT on their services (as if that is going to stop students from using it?). How about we embrace the technology and use it as a tool instead of clutching pearls and treating it as our teaching nemesis? I'm old enough to remember math teachers worried about students only using calculators and never learning a multiplication in their heads and that seems like the hot take of some in education. While it's too soon to figure out every nuance of this new technology and how it might be used, one thought would be to have students or teachers present an essay writing prompt to a class and then ask ChatGPT to write an introduction to the essay and as a class critique it, work with the limitations that ChatGPT seems to have in its fairly rote, pastiche, style of writing, create more engaging prose. In other words, dig deep into the technology and "chat" as a class about its strengths and weaknesses rather than running scared. I, for one, am exciting and thinking about ways to use the technology even if I'm just figuring out the best ways to do it.
I've been thinking a lot about the purpose of teaching. More than normal anyway. Perhaps sparked by the beginning of the new semester and embarking on yet another round of thinking, reading, and talking about the Holocaust. My usual trifecta of literature exploring this mark on humanity (NIGHT, MAUS, THE ASSAULT) is prefaced by asking the question: what is human nature? In this exploration of our humanity we see just how horrifyingly bad humans can act.
It begs the question, what does it take to learn from our mistakes, and ask ourselves if we as individuals have the moral courage to step up for what's right. I relate the story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose to my students, as one example of this courage. It is certainly a story that has inspired me.
I think also of a recent podcast from Ezra Klein about the philosophical writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. that are often ignored or conveniently forgotten.
In the random horror that is on display in our studies of the Holocaust I hope to use my Smash Journal assignment to get my students thinking deeply about their own identities and the values that they hold. And perhaps reflect a bit on their own abilities to stand up for what's right in a world that so often is a barrage of stimuli seemingly made to make us complacent, or deaf, to the suffering of others.
For over 5 years now I've lived in Westfield Gardens in Reno. I've loved the quietness of the neighborhood as it has limited access and does not act as a connector between other neighborhoods. I don't even mind the Reno High School cannon going off (a lot) during fall football games. It's conveniently close to downtown and other shopping, as well as the river which I frequent every morning on my walks, while also being just far enough away to not have to worry about flooding.
The actual history behind this development is a bit more circumspect as you'll see from watching the above video which I only recently discovered. The fairly explicit racism from the FHA policies is apparent. A good watch for anyone interested in the neighborhood and for the people interested in urban development in this country.
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.